Let’s continue this delightful little stroll down simulated memory lane, shall we? Today, we finish this series and look at how the conference would have fared in the last three years in those bowls.
As a refresher, we used Whatifsports.com to simulate the matchups, with the conference champion going to the Liberty Bowl and the runner-up going to the Potato Bowl.
- Liberty: FAU 35, Memphis 31 *Was the Boca Raton Bowl vs Akron
- Potato Bowl: North Texas 41, Wyoming 19*Was the New Orleans Bowl vs Troy
Despite losing the home-field advantage of the Boca Raton Bowl, FAU benefits in a huge way in drawing Memphis, a better opponent than 7-6 Akron. This game would have in essence been a “Group of Five New Year’s Six” game.
During the game, a couple of the best running backs in the country took over. Devin Singletary’s 162 yards and three touchdowns are enough to overcome Darrell Henderson’s 127 yards and two touchdowns, in the Owls 35-31 win. The backs trade 60+ yard touchdowns, with Singletary’s 69-yard touchdown providing the go-ahead score for the winning team. (nice)
Like previous runner-ups in this simulation, North Texas sacrificed a quality opponent for the sake of history. Instead of drawing the 10-2 Troy team that already beat LSU, the Mean Green get to face 7-5 Wyoming, who lost to Iowa and Oregon while only scoring eight points combined. However, it is the only bowl that day, and the nation gets treated to a showdown of the Group of Five’s most fascinating quarterbacks in Mason Fine and Josh Allen.
In this matchup, Mason Fine’s efficient 13-16 for 212 passing yards is more than enough to overcome Allen’s mediocre 21-40 for 232 yards in a 41-19 win for the Mean Green. Fine throws two touchdown passes with one going to Jalen Guyton, who gets 101 receiving yards on only three catches. On top of that, Jeffery Wilson and Nic Smith both exceed 100 yards rushing on the day for the Mean Green.
- Liberty: UAB 24, Missouri 30 *Was Boca Raton vs Northern Illinois
- Potato: Middle Tennessee 18, BYU 32 *Was the New Orleans Bowl vs App State
UAB gets a chance for a signature win in the program’s relatively young history in playing #23 Missouri. A win in this game would end a couple of droughts for them as it would be their first over a ranked team since 1999 and their first over an SEC team since 2000.
However, it is not meant to be for the Blazers as Larry Roundtree III scored a 28-yard touchdown run with 0:17 left to seal a 30-24 Mizzou win. The Blazers tied the game with two minutes left on an 11-yard AJ Erdely touchdown pass to Andre Wilson, but it isn’t enough.
The Tigers shut UAB’s ground game down as 1000-yard rusher Spencer Brown only gains 23 yards on 20 carries. In the losing effort, AJ Erdely leads the air attack for the Blazers, throwing for 239 yards and two touchdowns to counter Drew Lock’s 280 yards and two touchdowns.
In the other game, Middle Tennessee gets a brand-name opponent in the Cougars, but sacrifice quality in not playing App State in New Orleans. While BYU provides a chance at a national audience, their 6-6 resume pales in comparison to the Mountaineers, who won the Sun Belt at 11-2 and took Penn State to overtime.
In Boise, the Cougars spoil Brent Stockstill’s final game with a 32-18 victory that has BYU’s Zach Wilson throw for 249 yards and three touchdowns and add 60 yards on the ground, while Stockstill throws for 187 and a touchdown. A 35-yard Lopini Katoa touchdown run with 4:36 to go seals the game for the Cougars as they improve to 3-0 all-time vs the Blue Raiders.
- Liberty: FAU 21, Navy 32 *Previously in Boca Raton Bowl vs SMU
- Potato: UAB 14, Nevada 33 *Previously in New Orleans Bowl vs App State
The first matchup is essentially the same in quality for the Owls as they swap one 10-2 AAC West team for another. However, this game would be a chance for the Lane Train to come full circle, as his first game was a loss to Navy at home in 2017, before he heads to Ole Miss.
Despite Chris Robison’s 312 yards through the air, the Midshipmen defeat the Owls 32-21 without completing a pass and only attempting one. To make up for the lack of a passing game, both Malcolm Perry and Tazh Maloy exceed 100 yards rushing. The Owls held a 15-10 lead heading into the fourth quarter before the Midshipmen scored 22 unanswered points.
For the sake of history, UAB trades in a matchup with a 12-win App State team on the brink of the Cotton Bowl for…7-5 Nevada. No offense to Jay Norvell’s squad, but the drop-off in the appeal is significant.
The Wolf Pack defense performs magnificently, intercepting Tyler Johnston III five times in a 33-14 victory over the Blazers. Toa Taua leads the Nevada offense with 138 rushing yards and a score. In the losing effort, Kendall Parham ends up with 101 receiving yards for UAB.
The Liberty Bowl would have provided a better postseason opportunity for C-USA’s champs than any other bowl in the last six years.
As a result, this simulation gave the conference a chance to prove their strength with marquee games against the Power Five and the American.
Considering the drop in C-USA’s reputation during the Playoff era, keeping the Liberty Bowl would have been crucial for the league’s reputation among the Group of Five.
As for the Potato Bowl, the simulation caused the conference’s lesser division champs to lose some quality matchups. Sometimes, sacrifices must be made for history. The opportunity for more winnable games however was a welcome change, which the conference cashed in on throughout the simulation. Despite the conference’s sprawl, the trip to Boise would have been a tough sell for teams and their fans. In the age of seemingly endless bowl games, it only shows how crucial it has been for conferences to align themselves with enough regionally-optimal bowls. Despite the geographical disadvantage of the Potato Bowl for C-USA, it was fun to walk down memory lane again on the blue turf.